Tag Archives: ada lovelace day

Ada Lovelace, Exmoor ponies and the trouble with sources⤴

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Madeleine Shepherd and Anne-Marie Scott, ALD18, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

I didn’t manage to post a blog post on Ada Lovelace Day this year because I spent most of my spare time in the run up to the event looking for sources for the twenty contemporary Women in STEM nominated for Wikipedia article creation as part of the University of Edinburgh’s Ada Lovelace Day Editathon. The event itself is always one of the highlights of the year and this year was no exception. We had a really inspiring series of talks in the morning from the University’s Women in STEM and Physics Societies and the student WellComm Kings initiative. Mathematician and maker Madeleine Shepherd of Knot Unknot also came along and showed us her amazing knitted portraits of Ada Lovelace and Mary Somerville, which she created on a hacked knitting machine. We had a range of activities including DIY Filmschool and cake decorating followed by Wikipedia and Wikidata editing in the afternoon.

Back to those sources though…

Finding good quality secondary sources for contemporary academics can be tricky and it’s doubly difficult for female academics whose work is less visible and less widely reported. Wikipedia relies on independent secondary sources; it’s not sufficient for an academic to have published extensively, to be regarded as notable, it’s necessary to show that they have had a significant impact in their field. This can be problematic for female academics, and particularly for women in STEM, who routinely face discrimination on account of their gender.

There was much outrage in the press recently when it was reported that Donna Strickland did not have a Wikipedia entry until she received the Nobel Prize for Physics, with some news reports throwing up their hands in horror at Wikipedia’s gender bias. This isn’t news to anyone who has engaged with or edited Wikipedia of course. We are all well aware of Wikipedia’s gender bias, there’s even a Wikipedia article about it, and we’re working hard to fix it through our Wikimedia chapters, editathons and projects such as Wiki Women in Red. Also as Alex Hinojo pointed out:

In an article titled Wikipedia is a mirror of the world’s gender biases, Wikimedia Foundation’s Executive Director Katherine Maher, noted that it’s somewhat disingenuous for the press to complain about Strickland’s lack of Wikipedia entry when the achievements of women scientists are routinely under reported. We need more reports and independent secondary sources so we can improve the coverage of women on the encyclopaedia.

Wikipedia is built on the shoulders of giants. We’re generalists who learn from the expertise of specialists, and summarize it for the world to share. If journalists, editors, researchers, curators, academics, grantmakers, and prize-awarding committees don’t apply their expertise to identifying, recognizing, and elevating more diverse talent, then our editors have no shoulders upon which to stand. It’s time for these other knowledge-generating institutions to join us in the pursuit of knowledge equity. Wikipedia alone can’t change how society values women, but together we can change how they are seen.

A case in point is Mary Etherington, one of the women nominated for our Ada Lovelace Day editahon. The person who nominated Mary wrote

Mary Etherington was integral to the protection of the Exmoor pony breed after the war. She saw the importance of protecting the breed which was nearly extinct after the ponies had been used as a meat source during rationing and as target practise for the armies on Exmoor.

Whilst she is well known within the Exmoor pony breed, I believe she may be lost to time due to her rural links and the general lack of representation for rural matters on Wikipedia as well as her being a woman.

I really struggled to find many good sources about Mary online, but one of our editathon participants, Vicki Madden, was captivated by her story and determined to create an article about her. After some creative research and round about thinking, Vicki and Anne-Marie were able to find a whole range of independent sources and Mary Etherington now has her own shiny new Wikipedia entry.

Meanwhile I wrote an article on Tara Spires-Jones Professor of Neurodegeneration and Deputy Director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. I don’t know Tara personally but in her nomination she was described as:

World-leading research into molecular mechanisms of dementia. Works tirelessly to promote public understanding of science through expert comment in press and public engagement activities. Lovely person and very supportive of other women.

I hope her new Wikipedia article will help to raise awareness of her work to the general public and go a little way to replaying the support she has provided to others.

Wikipedia is a very lovely place to be⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Today is Ada Lovelace Day and this has become a firm fixture in our calendar at the University of Edinburgh. It is one of our flagship Wikipedia editathon days, and this year we partnered with the School of Chemistry and took the event on the road to our Kings Buildings campus. You can see the full schedule here, and there’s event some OER there if that’s your cup of tea. We ate our body-weight in periodic table cupcakes. I personally ate polonium and arsenic and have lived to tell the tale.

As the closing event to the day we had a viewing of the excellent short film “A Chemical Imbalance” commissioned by Professor Polly Arnold, Crum Brown Chair of Chemistry. I had the distinct pleasure of chairing a panel discussion with Professor Arnold, Professor Jane Norman, and Dr Carole Morrison after the film and we discussed the ways in which we can recruit more women into STEM careers, and nuture and retain women already working in the field.

Earlier in the afternoon I had started gathering up some info on Katherine Isabella Williams, one of the 19 signatories to the 1904 petition to join the Chemical Society. This is a story that our colleague Dr Michael Seery brought to our attention through an epic Twitter rant earier in the year (What do you do with a dead chemist?) and since then he’s written a fine Wikipedia article on the subject. We spent much of the editathon today fleshing out biographies of each of the 19 signatories.

Someone else was also working on the same biography as me, so I spent a little time fitting my notes in around the existing page this evening. After that I happened to look at my notifications in Wikimedia, and spotted the following comment on my user page, from around a month ago:

Hello, this isn’t a very Wikipedian comment but I just wanted to thank you personally for creating an entry for my mother Ann Katharine Mitchell. She is in residential care with Alzheimers, serene and contented, and largely lives in the past. She was told recently that she had a Wikipedia entry and was flattered and delighted to see it (I’ve now made some revisions). It isn’t the purpose of your editing to give the subjects pleasure, of course, but thanks for doing so!

I created the page for Ann Katharine Mitchell on 11 October 2016. Ada Lovelace Day last year. Sometimes working with Wikipedia can be one of the nicest things one gets to do.

Wikipedia is a very lovely place to be⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Today is Ada Lovelace Day and this has become a firm fixture in our calendar at the University of Edinburgh. It is one of our flagship Wikipedia editathon events, and this year we partnered with the School of Chemistry and took the event on the road to our Kings Buildings campus. You can see the full schedule here, and there’s even some OER there if that’s your cup of tea. We ate our body-weight in periodic table cupcakes. I personally ate polonium and arsenic and have lived to tell the tale.

As the closing event to the day we had a viewing of the excellent short film “A Chemical Imbalance” commissioned by Professor Polly Arnold, Crum Brown Chair of Chemistry. I had the distinct pleasure of chairing a panel discussion with Professor Arnold, Professor Jane Norman, and Dr Carole Morrison after the film and we discussed the ways in which we can recruit more women into STEM careers, and nuture and retain women already working in the field.

Earlier in the afternoon I had started gathering up some info on Katherine Isabella Williams, one of the 19 signatories to the 1904 petition to join the Chemical Society. This is a story that our colleague Dr Michael Seery brought to our attention through an epic Twitter rant earier in the year (What do you do with a dead chemist?) and since then he’s written a fine Wikipedia article on the subject. We spent much of the editathon today fleshing out biographies of each of the 19 signatories.

Someone else was also working on the same biography as me, so I spent a little time fitting my notes in around the existing page this evening. After that I happened to look at my notifications in Wikipedia, and spotted the following comment on my user page, from around a month ago:

Hello, this isn’t a very Wikipedian comment but I just wanted to thank you personally for creating an entry for my mother Ann Katharine Mitchell. She is in residential care with Alzheimers, serene and contented, and largely lives in the past. She was told recently that she had a Wikipedia entry and was flattered and delighted to see it (I’ve now made some revisions). It isn’t the purpose of your editing to give the subjects pleasure, of course, but thanks for doing so!

I created the page for Ann Katharine Mitchell on 11 October 2016. Ada Lovelace Day last year. Sometimes working with Wikipedia can be one of the nicest things one gets to do.

Ada Lovelace Day – Professor Elizabeth Slater⤴

from

Today is Ada Lovelace Day and unfortunately I am stuck at home waiting for a network engineer to come and fix my intermittent internet, rather than joining colleagues in Edinburgh for this year’s event celebrating Women in STEM.   Ada Lovelace Day is always one of my favourite events of the year so I’m gutted to miss it, especially as there will be periodic table cup cakes! However I’m planning to participate remotely so that I can defend my Metadata Games crown and I am also hoping to write a Wikipedia article about a woman from this field who was an inspiration to me when I was a student.

Vulcan hammering metal at a forge watched by Thetis. Engraving by Daret after Jacques Blanchard. CC BY, Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons.

Dr Elizabeth Slater was a lecturer in archaeology when I studied at the University of Glasgow in the late 1980s and it was as a result of her lively and engaging lectures that I developed an interest in archaeological conservation.  I believe Liz started her academic career as a scientist, before developing an interest in archaeometallurgy, and from there moving into archaeology. Liz taught us material sciences, conservation, archaeometallurgy, early smelting techniques, chemical analysis, experimental archaeology and the use and abuse of statistics.  It was her lectures on archaeometallurgy that really fascinated me though and it was from Liz that I remember hearing the theory as to why smith gods in so many mythologies happen to be lame.  One of the most common native ores of copper, which was smelted before the development of bronze, is copper arsenic ore, and when it’s smelted it gives off arsenic gas.  Prolonged exposure to arsenic gas results in chronic arsenic poisoning, the symptoms of which include sensory peripheral neuropathy, or numbness of the extremities, and distal weakness of the hands and feet.  It’s not too difficult to imagine that early smiths must frequently have suffered from chronic arsenic poisoning and that, Liz suggested, was why smith gods were portrayed as being lame.  This appears to be a relatively widespread theory now and I’m not sure it can be credited to any one individual, however it’s a fascinating story and one I always associate with Liz.

Liz left Glasgow in 1991 to take up the Garstang Chair in Archaeology at the University of Liverpool.  At the time, I believe she was the only current female Professor of Archaeology in the UK, Professor Rosemary Cramp having retired from Durham University the previous year.  Liz had a long and active career at the University of Liverpool, where she also served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts.  She retired in 2007 and died in 2014 at the age of 68.   In 2015 the University of Liverpool commemorated her contribution to archaeological sciences by opening the Professor Elizabeth Slater Archaeological Research Laboratories.

Liz does not currently have a Wikipedia page, but hopefully I can do something about that this afternoon.